A society which respects dignity and safety | Byron Camilleri

Over the past two years, more than 3,000 victims have contacted the agency for help

Several tools are available to assist victims of domestic violence or those at risk
Several tools are available to assist victims of domestic violence or those at risk

The fight against domestic violence is an ongoing and critical effort to combat abuse and violence within intimate relationships and families. Domestic violence, or intimate partner violence, is a pervasive problem affecting individuals of all genders, ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds. It includes physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, and economic abuse and can have devastating consequences for survivors and their families.

The recently enacted Domestic Violence Prevention Act, inspired by Claire’s law in the UK, is a step in the right direction to prevent domestic violence by providing relevant information to possible victims. It was also the result of a pledge made in the 2022 Labour Party’s electoral manifesto.

The issue of domestic violence is a sore wound in societies, and ours is no exception. Recognising the signs of domestic violence to support and assist victims is crucial. Open conversations and increased awareness are necessary to break the cycle of abuse. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, seeking help is vital.

As a result of a policy shift, the Home Affairs Ministry started to address the needs of victims of crime, resulting in the establishment of the Victim Support Agency (VSA). The VSA comprises various professionals, including specially trained police officers, who share the common goal of assisting victims of crime. Over the past two years, more than 3,000 victims have contacted the agency for help. To be as close to victims as possible, the VSA has also set up regional hubs in Santa Luċija, Qawra, and Xewkija, apart from its head office in Valletta.

As a result of the enactment of the Act, the VSA has recently launched this proactive lifeline to safeguard victims and potential victims of domestic violence. This tool enables individuals at risk of becoming victims to obtain a notification if their partner has a history of domestic violence convictions, empowering them to take necessary steps for their safety.

If someone thinks they are in danger of experiencing domestic violence, they can ask the Victim Support Agency and request a warning. This warning serves as a preventative measure. Once the police assess the situation, they will respond to the applicant within seven business days to let them know the result of their request.

The VSA will provide information regarding past domestic violence convictions by a partner, but the final decision on whether or not to continue a relationship rest solely with the person involved.

Several tools are available to assist victims of domestic violence or those at risk. One can visit the VSA's head office, any of its hubs, or its website (https://victimsupportagency.com) or call 116 006 for assistance.

Together we need to raise public awareness about domestic violence to break the silence surrounding the issue. We need to invest more in prevention to address the root causes of domestic violence. We need to encourage men and boys to actively participate in ending domestic violence. We must continue cooperating with non-governmental organisations, law enforcement, healthcare providers, and other stakeholders, which is crucial to developing a comprehensive and coordinated response to domestic violence. Addressing the deeply ingrained cultural norms perpetuating violence and discrimination is a long-term goal. Promoting gender equality and respect for all individuals is fundamental to eradicating domestic violence.

The government will not tolerate domestic violence. We are dedicated to continue implementing the required changes to address this problem but cannot achieve it alone. The fight against domestic violence requires continuous effort from individuals, communities, and government. Whatever we do, is never enough.

By working together and supporting survivors, we can create a society that values healthy relationships and respects the dignity and safety of all its members.